Need for a high quality assistive listening system in a 300 seater auditorium – with an easy-to-install set up that doesn’t tamper with the existing infrastructure of the auditorium
Sennheiser MobileConect was the recommended system. It is a completely flexible, easy-to-install system for assistive listening over Wifi. It works on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept and can be integrated in the existing wireless infrastructure
As one of the largest providers of continuing medical education in the UK, the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) plays a vital role in the health of the nation. The society’s headquarters at 1 Wimpole Street is also one of central London’s premier conference venues and has become the first professional body to install a Sennheiser MobileConnect assisted listening system in the UK, which has been installed as part of a £200,000 upgrade project in the Guy Whittle Auditorium.
The RSM is a longtime user of Sennheiser systems, currently including the SpeechLine digital wireless microphone conferencing system, infra-red assistive listening systems and LSP 500 portable wireless loudspeakers.
MobileConnect is a flexible, ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) system, which uses an app to deliver enhanced audio via WiFi for the hearing impaired, translation and other audio services. The RSM initially investigated MobileConnect because the installation of an induction loop systems presented problems for the 300-seat Guy Whittle Auditorium.
“We had installed induction loops in other auditoriums within the RSM, but this particular one is built on a steel frame and there were no plans to rip up the carpets, so we were looking at other ways that we could provide assistive listening,” says 1 Wimpole Street AV manager Kevin McLoughlin.
As someone with a hearing impairment himself, Kevin is only too aware of other factors that also need to be taken into account for users. “You want a system that delivers excellent audio quality, but the comfort of the user is extremely important,” he continues. “If you put headphones or a stethoset on, it’s very obvious that you’re hearing impaired. It draws attention and lot of hearing impaired people understandably don’t want that. People also know their own device better than any other.”
He continues, “Being the RSM, we want to be more than just compliant with the Equality Act 2010, we want to show that we’re going the extra mile. By allowing delegates to use their own device, there is an immediate level of comfort for them that other systems can’t provide.”
Further advantages of MobileConnect are that the app is very easy to use and the system is remarkably flexible.
“You can choose from four channels and it has a very intuitive personal listening assistant, where you adjust the audio to suit your individual needs,” says Kevin. “Another of the many reasons we like the system is because it can be used for so many things. At a recent event we were providing a French translation for a live stream, which we also patched through to the room. This meant any French speakers could listen to a separate audio channel, streamed via WiFi, in their own language.”
Installed by St Albans-based Feltech AV, the system was quick and easy to set up. “We just had to introduce four channels from our Biamp Tesira DSP and set up the wireless access point. Another big plus is that you can select channels and the strength of the wireless access point via the MobileConnect browser interface, which takes literally minutes to learn,” says Kevin.
Another very attractive feature is that Sennheiser has a clear road map for the future of MobileConnect, rolling out more advantages for users as the technology develops.
“When the RSM first looked at MobileConnect, it was a closed system, but a recent upgrade means that we are now able to provide even more integration. This includes allowing MobileConnect to use existing WiFi networks,” says Sennheiser UK’s Nick Pemberton. “This means that, if your personal device is already using in-house Wi-Fi, you won’t have to go into a new Wi-Fi network just to receive MobileConnect. For example, users are able to switch between assistive listening, watching television and hearing audio feeds from a potentially wide variety of sources over WiFi.”
This development has positive implications for all venues, which Kevin is clearly excited about, and which the RSM will embrace as MobileConnect is rolled out to cover the entire 1 Wimpole Street building.
“Some of our digital signage in the public areas runs BBC news 24 hours a day. Obviously we don’t want the audio playing in public areas, so we have subtitles on it.” he says. “Adding it to one of the MobileConnect channels means anybody who happens to have some time and be looking at those screens can add the audio via their mobile device. It’s another benefit that the system will bring to all users, whether they are hearing impaired or not.
“We’re currently also working with Action on Hearing Loss to achieve their Louder Than Words accreditation,” he adds. “They have been really impressed with the MobileConnect system, which they hadn’t seen in this environment before. I think it has certainly got us a few bonus points towards the accreditation and has also contributed to us winning Most Innovative and Tech-Friendly Venue in this year’s Event Technology Awards.”